Grace and Truth
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03. BASIC DIFFERENCES BETWEEN ISLAM AND CHRISTIANITY
6 - WILL ALL MUSLIMS GO TO HELL AND ALL CHRISTIANS GO TO HEAVEN?
Servants of the Lord
Do Christians have the right to condemn Muslims for refusing the Gospel message of the death of Christ on the cross? What does the Koran teach concerning the question as to who will go to hell? How does this contrast with the Gospel teaching on hell?
6.01 -- WILL ALL MUSLIMS GO TO HELL AND ALL CHRISTIANS GO TO HEAVEN?
Servants of the Lord
You will know the Truth,
This question would be malicious, cynical, arrogant and racist, if there was not a disturbing threat of Allah’s in the Koran addressed to all Muslims:
70 There is not one among you, who shall go down into it (Hell): Such is the absolute decree (predestination) upon your Lord. 71 We will then deliver those who were pious, and leave the wrong doers in it (Hell) on their knees. (Sura Maryam 19:70-71)
ا٧١ وَإِنْ مِنْكُمْ إِلاَّ وَارِدُهَا كَانَ عَلَى رَبِّكَ حَتْماً مَقْضِيّاً ٧2 ثُمَّ نُنَجِّي الَّذِينَ اتَّقَوْا وَنَذَرُ الظَّالِمِينَ فِيهَا جِثِيّاً (سُورَةُ مَرْيَمَ ١٩: ٧٠-٧١)ا
Allah begins this apocalyptic speech by threatening all unbelievers who are not convinced of the resurrection of the dead. Allah warns them in the plural form of majesty:
68 So, by your Lord,
ا٦٨ فَوَرَبِّكَ لَنَحْشُرَنَّهُمْ وَالشَّيَاطِينَ ثُمَّ لَنُحْضِرَنَّهُمْ حَوْلَ جَهَنَّمَ جِثِيّاً ٦٩ ثُمَّ لَنَنْزِعَنَّ مِنْ كُلِّ شِيعَةٍ أَيُّهُمْ أَشَدُّ عَلَى الرَّحْمَانِ عِتِيّاً ٧٠ ثُمَّ لَنَحْنُ أَعْلَمُ بِالَّذِينَ هُمْ أَوْلَى بِهَا صِلِيّاً ٧١ وَإِنْ مِنْكُمْ إِلاَّ وَارِدُهَا كَانَ عَلَى رَبِّكَ حَتْماً مَقْضِيّاً (سُورَةُ مَرْيَمَ ١٩: ٦٨-٧١)ا
In this horrible speech Muhammad sends all his followers into the blazing flames of Hell and promises them, that Allah “maybe” at some later point in time will bring out some of them, those who are god-fearing. Not only all the unrighteous, but also all the animists, Jews and Christians will burn and smolder there forever (Suras Al ‘Imran 3:56; al Ma’ida 5:72-73; al-A’raf 7:38-39; al-Burudj 85:10; al Bayyina 98:6; a.o.).
6.02 -- What does Ibn Hisham, the Muslim biographer of Muhammad, have to say concerning this verse?
Having concluded an armistice with the Meccans, Muhammad challenged his troops, in 630 AD, to prepare for war against Byzantine Christians in the north of the Arabic Peninsula. There was no more booty to be made in the area of Mecca and Medina since most of the Bedouin tribes had submitted to Islam (Sura al-Hudjurat 49:14). The Muslims hesitated, however, and refused to go to war in the sweltering heat of summer against a superior military force. At this, Muhammad lost his temper and hurled the threat of the purgatory of Allah at their heads, so that a considerable number took up arms to fight against the Eastern Romans.
One of the combatants was Abdallah b. Rabaha. He broke into tears when he had heard the menace of Hell and said: “I don’t know how I will get out once I am in there!”
In a poem, he pleaded with Allah to grant him the mercy of dying as a martyr, since, according to Muhammad’s preaching, this was the only sure way of entering Paradise (Suras Al ‘Imran 3:142.157-159.169.170; al-Tauba 9:184.108.40.206; Muhammad 47:4-6; al-Fath 48:17; al Saff 61:10-12; a.o.).
Abdallah fell in close combat as well as Zaid b. Haritha, Muhammad’s adopted son and his nephew Djafar b. Abu Talib. After the withdrawal of his routed troops, Muhammad swore to avenge this defeat on the Eastern Roman Christians (Ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad, Book II, page 262-267).
The commentators of the Koran have considerable difficulty in producing an explanation of this verse depicting the blazing flames of Hell, which Muslims can accept. In this respect they offer incredible rationalizations. Nevertheless, it is impossible to explain away the fact that, according to the Koranic text, all of the followers of Muhammad must go to Hell.
6.03 -- What does al-Tabari, the serious expositor of the Koran, write about this verse?
In his exegesis of this verse, al-Tabari (died in 923 AD) collated several different traditions, some complementary, others contradictory, all of which were attributed to Muhammad.
According to his research, all Muslims must not only advance to the edge of Hell, they must enter in!
All believers and unbelievers, pious and impious, are obliged to go into the blazing flames or, at least, pass through them.
Another tradition reports that when the god-fearing Muslims arrive in Hell, the fire would have just been extinguished in this part of the underworld (which was momentarily being cleaned), so that they would be able to cross over unhurt into Paradise.
According to other opinions, the whole world would be aflame on the day of resurrection and therefore all mankind would roast in the fire of Hell.
A few speculated that the high fever, that several of them suffered, was a mercy of Allah, a substitute for Hell, so that these privileged persons were spared the torment of the flames.
Some wept when they heard the announcement of the inevitability of the fires of Hell. One of them sighed: Oh, that my mother had not born me! I know that I shall go to Hell. But I do not know whether I shall ever come out again!
Several Muslims remembered the bridge over the crater of Hell, over which Muhammad had said, every soul would have to go. This crossover was sharp as the edge of a sword. Demons would try, with hooks and bars, to pull those walking across into Hell. Everyone, however, would be singed by the leaping flames. The best Muslims would hasten over the bridge of testing with the speed of lightning. The good ones would travel on the wings of the wind, those who were less conscientious would stride at the pace of a race-horse and those whose faith was deficient would walk at the pace of a herd of goats.
Several listeners insisted that they had heard Muhammad say that not all his followers would be freed from Hell at the same time, but rather one after the other according to their fulfillment of religious duties. After a long period of waiting, however, every person who confessed that “There is no other God but Allah” would be fetched out of the fire. At the end, all who believed in Allah and his prophet, would be summoned out of their torment, even if their faith was only as big as a grain of barley! But all idol worshipers, all Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Christians and all scoffers would burn forever in the roaring flames.
There were some Muslims who affirmed that they had heard from the lips of their prophet, that the inventory of good works of a Muslim in heaven will depend on the fulfillment of ones religious duties on earth: prostration in prayer five times a day at the appointed hour, fasting until sunset during the month of Ramadan, paying the prescribed religious taxes, taking part in the pilgrimage to Mecca and fearless prowess in the Holy War. Their sins of omission will determine the degree to which people will be exposed to the flames: Whether they will stand in glowing embers up to their ankles, their knees, their hips, their breast or their neck. The faces of the Muslims, however, will never be covered with burning coals so that they still have the possibility of confessing their faith in Allah. Not so with the non-Muslims: they will be swallowed up by the flames. If the Muslims standing in the fire constantly repeat their two articles of faith, they will be delivered out of their torment after a long period of waiting and shown the way to Paradise. There, angels will douse them with “waters of life” so that their wounds, incurred in the fire, will heal and leave no scars behind.
6.04 -- What does al-Razi, the mystical commentator of the Koran, write concerning this verse?
Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (died 1209 AD), a later interpreter of the Koran, confirms and expands more at length many of the arguments of al-Tabari. He adds further traditions concerning Muhammad:
When convinced Muslims enter Hell, it seems to them as cool as a cold storage room, a place filled with peace and joy. They shiver there and their teeth chatter. Abraham (!) already underwent a similar experience in the fiery furnace of the Euphrates (Sura al-Anbiya’ 21:68-69).
Al-Razi writes that the assurance of faith of the god-fearing Muslims is strengthened through the experience of the coolness of Hell, as they observe the anguish of the godless in the blazing flames of the underworld. Their expectation of the promised bliss in Paradise is thereby enhanced and their awareness of the distress endured by the harassed sinners in the furnace is heightened. Furthermore, it will become crystal clear to Muslims in Hell that the Koran conveys the plain truth and that the warnings of Allah are reliable.
The unbelievers, however, who remain on their knees in Hell, will mostly be polytheists who associate other divinities with Allah. Kneeling in the hot coals, they will wail, panting for coolness, while the Muslims will leave their refreshing cavern triumphantly!
6.05 -- The constant presence of Hell in Islam
These quotations of commentators of the Koran show clearly, that Hell plays a much more important role in the thinking of Muslims than of Christians. Muhammad mentions Hell more than one hundred times (djahannam 77 times and djahim 26 times). The followers of Muhammad read quite a bit about the woes which will come upon them.
At a gathering in Freetown, Sierra Leone, an Islamic officer challenged the preacher and called out: “You Christians are cowards and don’t tell us the whole truth!” As the speaker returned the question and asked what the police officer meant, he replied: “Is it true or not that all Muslims go to Hell?” The witness of Christ twitched visibly, prayed hastily and silently and said to him: “You are setting your hope on the Shari’a! But you have never perfectly obeyed it. You have not prayed five times a day. You have not fasted consistently during the month of Ramadan. You calculate your religious taxes and your alms to your own advantage. And what about your relationship to your wives, your children and your subordinates? The law on which you set your confidence will judge you. Because of the Shari’a, you will land inexorably in Hell.”
The evangelist continued: “We Christians are no better than you Muslims! However, we build our hope not on the law, but on the grace of Jesus Christ. On the basis of the Shari’a you will be judged; by the grace of Jesus, we will be saved!”
6.06 -- The law condemns all!
Any reader perusing the letters of the apostle Paul and observing his struggles concerning the law and the gospel, will understand more clearly the problem of Islam. The religion of Muhammad is a “religion under the law.” Muslims believe that the obligatory worship and everyday duties, as well as the harsh sanctions of the law, are binding obligations imposed on them by Allah himself, - although the vast majority have only a vague idea of the legislation. Besides, the five legal schools of Islam disagree among themselves in many questions concerning the Shari’a! Nevertheless, the fundamentalists are striving for the acceptance and the enforcement of the Shari’a in all Islamic countries. They hope through its fulfillment to be justified by Allah and to inherit Paradise. In the last analysis, Islam is a form of justification by self-efforts and works.
The Gospel, however, tells us more than once: no one lives exactly according to the requirements of the law (Romans 3:20; Galatians 2:16, a.o.). But anyone who transgresses one commandment only is a rebel against the Giver of the Law (James 2:10). Paul strongly emphasizes this point.
“For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is every one who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, to perform them.’” (Deuteronomy 27:26; Galatians 3:10).
6.07 -- The error of the fanatics of the Law
God is no shopkeeper weighing up good deeds against evil ones (Suras al-Nisa’ 4:29; al-Tauba 9:111; Hud 11:114; Fatir 35:29-30; a.o.). As an apple tree bears apples, so the inner depravity of man manifests itself through transgressions and sins. The Muslim, however, never discovers in the Koran that he is lost sinner. The holiness of God, which condemns his impurity, and the love of the Almighty, which strives to overcome his selfishness, are both unknown to him. Allah is not the standard for Muslims! (Matthew 5:48; Luke 6:36) There is no common measure between Allah and his creatures, and a great chasm remains forever between them.
Conversely, however, in the Old Covenant, the Lord commanded: “Be holy, for I am holy!” (Leviticus 11:44; 19:2; 1 Peter 1:15-16) The sinlessness of God exposes our sinful nature (Isaiah 6:3-7). The closer a person lives with Him, the more he recognizes his own depravity, and his pride is shattered in contact with His perfection.
In Islam, it is the opposite; Allah remains a distant deity. This is why Muslims are blind to the fact that they are, as all other human beings, lost in sin! They deceive themselves into thinking that they are good observers of the Law and become proud hypocrites. But the Bible tells us: There is none who does good, not even one! (Genesis 6:12; Psalm 14,1-4; Romans 3:10-12). Muhammad and the humanists, however, teach us the opposite. They insist that man is good, so that he is capable of improving himself! (Suras al-Nisa’ 4:28; Hud 11:114; al-’Ankabut 29:9)
The Bible protects us against such self-deception concerning ourselves and shows us another way to overcome guilt and unrighteousness. It requires first that we recognize our failures and then openly admit and confess them to God. The Ten Commandments may be helpful directives for our lives (Exodus 20:2-17), but they nonetheless condemn us for our trespasses and sins of omission. And besides, Jesus shows us that even the intentions of a man are depraved (Matthew 15:17-20; 5:21-48).
The transformation of a sinner must begin by the renewing of his heart, his conscience and his mind. Anyone who will not repent, shall not escape the condemnation of the law. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8-10)
Muslims do realize that they have committed many specific transgressions and implore, just as Muhammad himself, Allah’s forgiveness (Suras al-Mu’min 40:55; Muhammad 47:19; al-Fath 48:2; al-Nasr 110:3). What they have not recognized, is their total bankruptcy, and they imagine that they can compensate their evil deeds with their good works. This false assumption constitutes the basic error of Islam!
Martin Luther testified in one of his songs:
There was no good in my life,
His confession shows clearly that Christians are no better than Muslims. Both deserve to go to Hell because they neither reflect nor live according to the love of God (Genesis 1:27; Romans 3:23-24).
6.08 -- Be reconciled to God!
Jesus, on the other hand, came as the Lamb of God, taking upon Himself the sin of the world (John 1:29,36). He has reconciled every single person with the holy God, through his vicarious sufferings and death on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:19-21). The right to salvation is open to all! “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him, should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Who accepts this gift of God? Who will allow himself to be justified, after confessing his sins, by the atoning death of Christ? The question is not whether Muslims or Christians are cast into hell, but instead, who will appropriate the privilege acquired by Christ for all as well as the power of his grace (Romans 5:1). Jesus has assured us that:
He who hears My word,
Nevertheless, by their indifference and complacency, most Christians decline their proffered right and the saving power of Christ. Also, the majority of Muslims disbelieve His crucifixion and the transforming energy of His Holy Spirit, because the Suras of the Koran suggest that the Son of Mary never died on the cross (Suras Al ‘Imran 3:55; al-Nisa’ 4:157) and that the Holy Spirit is only the angel Gabriel!
Both groups, however, have the right to a life in fellowship with God! No one will be justified through his own achievements, but only through the grace of the Redeemer (Ephesians 2:8-9). Whoever believes in Him, will not go to Hell! But whoever rejects Him, rejects his right to grace and chooses loneliness, restlessness and the agony of being separated from God.
6.09 -- Are our good works useless?
Jesus warned his listeners, saying: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven!” (Matthew 7:21) Pious talk will not save anybody! Alone connection to Jesus Christ through faith delivers us from our sins, from God’s judgment, from the bondage to Satan and from the power of death! (John 11:25-26). “He, who believes in Him, is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18) Through faith in Christ we recognize God as our Father and Jesus as His Son: „He who has the Son, has the life; he does not have the Son of God, does not have the life.“ (1 John 5:12)
Perhaps someone will say: “But Jesus Christ taught, in his discourse on the Last Judgment, that only those who do good will enter heaven, and all others will be cast into the fire of Hell!” (Matthew 25:31-46)
As has already been mentioned, the Bible corrects this objection: the just were not only righteous, but had also committed injustice during their lifetime. And those who were callous were not only wicked, but had also done good. The difference between the two categories resides in the fact that those who were justified confessed their sins to God and accepted the cleansing of their consciences through the blood of Christ, thereby wiping out the negative sides of their past. What remained were the good works generated through them by God’s grace.
On the contrary, those who were self-righteous refused to humble themselves. They did not confess their sins to God and would have nothing to do with the vicarious and atoning death of Christ. Therefore, their so-called good works which, in final analysis, only served their self-justification and their personal credit, were useless. Finally, in their case, nothing but guilt remained. Only the crucified Son of God saves us and sanctifies us for the service of His Father. “… he who does not obey the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." (John 3:36)
6.10 -- Who goes to Hell and who does not?
All Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists, who try to establish their own righteousness through prayers, fasting, sacrifices and pilgrimages, deceive themselves and fall into a state of restless anxiety and estrangement from God, leading to belated regret (Luke 16:19-31). If people trust in their own moral rectitude, regardless of what law they set their hope on, they will be judged according to these very ordinances. In so doing, they themselves choose Hell as their future sphere of existence.
Quite the reverse, anyone who accepts Jesus Christ as his Savior from God’s wrath, will be justified freely for the sake of His vicarious atonement (Romans 3:24,28). He does not go to Hell, whoever he may be.
There is a saving power in the name of Jesus. “It is He who will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21) In the age of grace, God’s Son is gathering His followers from all nations, religions, languages and tribes (Revelation 7:9-17). Today, there are, among the Jews, Christians and Muslims, more disciples of Jesus, belonging to his spiritual people, than we know of. They already bear eternal life within themselves and experience the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7).
6.11 -- Jesus’ discourses on Hell
According to the Gospel accounts, Jesus mentions the existence of Hell fifteen times (Matthew 5:29-30; 10:28; 11:23; 16:18; 23:15; Mark 9:43-47; Luke 8:31; 10:15; 16:23; Revelation 1:18; a.o.) Nevertheless, the Son of God treated the subject cautiously because he did not wish to win converts by intimidation, instead he warned them of the painful (Mark 1:24) reality because he loved them.
At Jesus’ birth, the angel who appeared by night to the shepherds in the neighborhood of Bethlehem, told his startled listeners not to be appalled because of their sins, which they suddenly became aware of in God’s light; instead, he brought them “good news of great joy!” (Luke 2:10) Ever since, the promise of God is valid for every believer: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine!” (Isaiah 43:1)
The forgiveness of our sins, however, was not the only reason for Jesus’ coming. He not only wanted to remove the negative aspects of our lives, but also to give his own everlasting life to all who accept his pardon (John 3:16; 10:10). In his highpriestly prayer he requested: “Father, I desire that they also, whom Thou hast given me, be with me where I am, in order that they may behold my glory, which Thou hast given me ...” (John 17:24; see also 12:26; 14:2-3; 1 John 3:1ff.)
The Lord had already given his prophet Ezekiel the following revelation 600 hundred years before: “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you: and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh and I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes and you will be careful to walk in my ordinances” (Ezekiel 36:26-27; compare Psalm 51:12-14; Jeremiah 31:32-34).
There is no indwelling of Muslims through the Holy Spirit in Islam, neither a renewing of their minds through the receiving of God’s power, nor an assured hope of eternal life. The resurrection of the dead is nothing but the restoration of a person to his former way of life, with all its pains and pleasures. This religion recognizes neither the need nor the possibility of a spiritual renewal of man, but only his submission to the law, the Shari’a.
After Jesus, through his atoning death, had abolished “the barrier of the dividing wall” between God and all sinners, the Lord was able to pour out his Holy Spirit on the disciples waiting in prayer (Acts 1:8; 2:1-4). This Spirit is eternal life (John 6:63), divine love (Romans 5:5), eternal power (Acts 1:8), abiding humility (Matthew 11:29), deep joy (John 15:11; 17:13), enthusiastic thankfulness (Ephesians 1:14). The Holy Spirit produces in us the good works which bring glory to God (Galatians 5:22-25). Through this Spirit, Christ’s followers have already conquered hell. Our destination is not death or purgatory or agony and horror throughout eternity, but instead, life within the family of our Father in heaven (Matthew 6:9-15; Ephesians 2:18-19).
Jesus said: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good things to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” (Luke 11:13). In this vein, the crucified and risen Christ urges us:
Ask, and it shall be given to you;
6.12 -- Q U I Z
as an encouragement for his/her future services for Christ. It will be appreciated if you include the Qur'anic references in your answers.
Every participant in this quiz is allowed to use any book at his disposition and to ask any trustworthy person known to him when answering these questions. We wait for your written answers including your full address on the papers or in your e-mail. We pray for you to Jesus, the living Lord, that He will call, send, guide, strengthen, protect and be with you every day of your life!
Yours in His service,
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6.13 -- THE GAP BETWEEN CHRISTIANITY AND ISLAM - CAN IT BE BRIDGED?
After all due consideration, every single reader of the Bible and the Koran must answer this difficult and complex question (for himself). What is impossible to man is possible with God! May the risen Lord deliver all Christians from the superficiality of a multicultural daydream and show them that Jesus is the only way to meaningful repentance, our lasting justification before God and the source of eternal life. No one comes to the Father, but through him (John 14:6).
In order to bridge the deep gap between Christians and Muslims, we offer you a series of booklets under the following title:
Conversation with Muslims about Christ
This collection of booklets is practical, relevant and brings answers from the Bible, science and the Koran, and it has already been translated into several languages: Arabic, English, French, Indonesian and also into Russian and other languages.
Whoever wants to speak with Muslims must become acquainted with their way of thinking and compare the basic teachings of the Bible and the Koran. This is the only way to build bridges that rest on a solid foundation. Nevertheless, when all is said and done, it remains an act of grace when a person, Muslim or Christian, recognizes the truth. This truth, however, will make us free, because
Christ is the Truth.